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The Comedic Side of Candice Bergen : 'Murphy Brown': Is It a Diamond in the Rough?

November 14, 1988|HOWARD ROSENBERG | Times Television Critic

The new CBS comedy series "Murphy Brown" doesn't exactly sizzle in its debut at 9 tonight on Channels 2 and 8. It is a show you'd like to see again, however, which is more than you can say for much of the TV genre it caricatures.

TV magazines of all varieties are the target, and Candice Bergen is swell as Murphy, the egocentric/insecure superstar interviewer of a hit investigative series titled "FYI."

Tough-but-likable is the operative formula here. Tyrannical-but-vulnerable too. And as a bonus, Murphy has great legs.

The quintessential celebrity journalist, she returns from a month's stay at the Betty Ford Clinic to find that things have changed. There's a new executive producer, 25-year-old Harvard Business School graduate named Miles Silverberg (Grant Shaud); also, former Miss America Corky Sherwood (Faith Ford)--whose talent in the pageant was coordinating closets--has joined Murphy, stuffy anchor Jim Dial (Charles Kimbrough) and reporter Frank Fontana (Joe Regalbuto) on the "FYI" team.

In the real world, the Harvard business grads become network programming executives, not magazine show producers. And "Coordinating Closets" would be a five-part ratings sweeps series on local news. But this is not the real world.

Some of the fluff-over-content jokes do strike home, however, and the high-powered Murphy does remind you of Barbara Walters, if only because of her interviewing fame and instant access to top government leaders.

Murphy faces a crisis tonight in deciding whether to honor her promise to an opportunistic interview subject not to ask him a particularly embarrassing question. Co-executive producer Diane English wrote the script, which has its moments but fades badly.

Yet Murphy and her team have some bite and exist in a self-parodying milieu that's always ripe for comedy. So label "Murphy Brown" a work in progress.

To be continued. . . .

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